Travel Technology – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

iphone
iPhone Travel Tool or Travel Terror?! (source – techradar.com)

In the 10 or so years I have been travelling solo, I have noticed a distinct change in the way we travel; a shift in how we negotiate the journey.  Back in the summer of 2005, jetting off on my first big solo trip to Australia and New Zealand; a trip I had booked over the telephone.  I worked my way north, up the coast from Sydney arranging transport and accommodation, largely, by phone or on arrival at hostels.  My communication home, to family and friends, was minimal; I truly was ‘far from home’ in every sense.  Now…the advent of high speed, mobile Internet communication and affordable smart technology has (like most aspects of our lives) dramatically changed the whole experience of travel.  This is not only for the traveller themselves, but the people back home who are able to connect, journey with them and experience all the magical adventures their son, daughter, brother, sister or friend is having.

This connection home brings great benefits, but it has drawbacks…

The Good…

Facebook, Twitter, Facetime, Skype, SnapChat, WhatsApp and Viber now trump the lowly e-mail as rapid forms of communication, that enable photos and videos of your travels, messages to remind your parents to water your plants and allow your friends to see your sweat-slicked, tropically sunburnt face in an instant.  Jokes aside, knowing that you are safe and well brings great comfort to your nearest and dearest.  Well aware that you  are going to be caught up in a whole host of activities, amongst a group of strangers in a foreign country is bound to worry those that care dearly about you.  The pictures you send home will reassure, but also delight your family and friends (as well as make them a little jealous), but ultimately they are a great way of letting people know you are having a fantastic time on, what is probably, a trip of a lifetime.

It Makes Travel Easier…

Having access to the Internet in the palm of your hand makes it so easy to plan and book your travels.  Checking reviews on TripAdvisor, getting advice from fellow travellers on travel forums and booking accommodation and flights over the world wide web, for example, has cut out the middle man, meaning that you have the flexibility to arrange much of your travel whenever you want and wherever you want.

The All-In-One…

My iPhone is a great travel tool.  It allows me to take some good quality photos and videos that I can upload to Twitter (@PulpedTravel), Instagram (www.instagram.com/pulpedtravel) and my Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/pulpedtravel) with incredible ease!  That very phone provides me with a torch to help me find my way through any dark alleyways as well as a compass for when I am lost.  It is a store for all my music for those long bus journeys and is a calculator for those currency conversions I cannot work out in my tiny brain.

The Bad and The Ugly…

Sure, technology certainly helps us travellers to connect and maintain contact on the road, but we are now faced with a typical scene in a hostel, cafe or bar where travellers are fixated on their phones or tablets, not on conversing with each other.  It is quite sad.  We get away to escape the technological trap associated with work at home – hopefully, to meet like-minded travellers, but in the end spend a lot of our time consumed with the goings on back in our home country, in our friendship groups and with our families.  I have to admit, I am guilty of this, from time to time, and have to remind myself  that it is important to mix and mingle with the people I am with rather than worry about the dramas back home.  As a solo traveller, technology and social media can be an all too easy respite from the occasional loneliness – a travel comfort blanket if you will.  It is a temptation I try to resist.  I was particularly saddened to see that even in a relatively less developed country like Vietnam, families sat out of their homes were glued to the technology like us travellers were too.

You Will Miss Out…

With your face buried in the screen of your mobile phone it can be all too easy to miss the fantastic sights you have paid good money to see!  Sat in a cafe playing Candy Crush or catching up on Snapchat means that you are missing an opportunity to relax, soak up the atmosphere and, most importantly, people watch in a culture very different to your own.  Spending all your time taking the perfect selfie, might just mean you really do not take the time to appreciate the majesty and grandeur of the awesome landscape you have travelled 2 hours on bumpy roads to see.

So, technology is a great addition to a life on the road, providing a superb access to resources that enable the traveller to capture our journeys and go further for less, but we must balance this by remembering the real reasons we are travelling and, rest assured, it is not so we can beat our high score on Angry Birds or refresh our Twitter feeds every five minutes.

Safe travels, everyone!

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